Garden and wildlife highlights for May and June

Barrington Court white wisteria

With new vibrant green leaf growth and delicate blooms and cool colours of the flowering plants all around, there’s something to look at and admire with every step. The gentle scent of lavender is carried on the air, and the bees are busy gathering pollen, the irises look stately and impressive, and the apple trees are bursting with blossom, the garden is beginning to look full and frothy.

Each section of the garden has its own identity and style with fabulous seasonal planting, but some plants take a starring role at certain times, and for a few weeks in May and June, the  blooms and racemes of the unusual white wisteria look like a waterfall of flowers, cascading down the walls of the white garden. The peonies are at their best this time of the year too, deep crimson, scented and romantically blousy, complemented by roses growing up and over the walls of the garden buildings and in the borders.

A note on the roses

The rose bushes in the rose and iris garden were over twenty years old and in March this year were replanted with fresh stock. As a precaution and to minimise the possibility of the rose replant virus taking hold, the garden team used the box planting method, which has been shown to be an effective technique against this virus. The new plants were placed into sturdy cardboard boxes filled with fresh compost, then immersed into the border, the cardboard will break down over time and become part of the composition of the soil.

So the roses in this part of the garden will be taking an understudy role this year, as the young plants take root and become established. However there are over thirty different varieties of roses with beautiful blooms to admire in many other areas of the garden, such as Rosa ‘gertrude Jekyll’ and Rosa ‘Octavia Hill’.

Red roses on the stable wall at Barrington Court
Red roses on the stable wall at Barrington Court

May and June gardening tasks

It’s a busy time for the garden team, with a full schedule of mowing, weeding and edging and replacing the spring bedding with summer plants, such as golden yellow rudbeckias and the bright red dahlia ‘grenadier’.

There’s a lot going on in the kitchen garden too and usually by the third week in May the risk of frost is over, so the half hardy vegetables such as runner beans, peppers and aubergines can be planted out.

Wildlife in the summer garden

Bird song and calls fill the air, as this year’s fledglings find their voice, and a variety of butterflies can often be spotted warming their wings in a patch of sunshine or drawing nectar from flowering plants.

Our woodland, garden and meadow are teaming with butterflies in summer
Colourfly butterflies can be spotted all over Sheffield Park in summer

Our densely planted flower rich garden, attracts a whole host of diverse and beneficial insects, including different types of bees. You can’t miss the foraging bumble bee, and you’ll also be likely to see masonry bees near the south wall of the lily garden too, even the scarce nomad bee has been recorded here in recent years.

A long history of low intensity cropping has preserved the character of the apple trees and beauty of the orchards here, and together with the old and veteran trees in the arboretum and parkland this provides a habitat for many notable insects and invertebrates, such as the nationally scarce fruit tree bark beetle. One of the things you’ll notice as you walk through the gardens and orchards is the abundance of mistletoe, which supports the rare mistletoe bug (hypseloecus visci), which in turn feed the pretty spotted mistletoe thrush.

The environment of the garden, parkland and orchards also create a valuable bat feeding habitat. Thanks to recent surveys carried out by wildlife volunteers, we know that there are four legally protected species of bats that roost here, they are: Natterer’s, Pipistrelle, Brown long eared and Leisler’s bats. You probably won’t see them during your visit as they become active when dusk falls and we’ve all gone home.